Friday, January 22, 2010

Camping at Lake Maria State Park MN

The story: Brody, Angie, Grant and I stayed at Lake Maria State Park for the weekend! We had a great time despite the rain in the middle of January! We arrived Friday late afternoon and packed everything into our ski pulk and backpacks to make the hike to the cabin (it was about a half mile to a mile). Most of us (except Brody) decided to walk since we were carrying/hauling stuff and aren't the greatest skiers ;)

It had been rainy and warm so the snow was pretty packed and slippery. Brody had a couple hilarious spills but made it all the way to the cabin! The boys went back for a second trip to get the rest of the stuff while we made the beds and got settled. We made supper and played Jenga and cribbage for the rest of the evening.

The next day we had some breakfast and relaxed in the cabin since it was still raining. When we couldn't take it anymore we ventured outside to play. The rain let up and we went for a cross country ski trek to Lake Maria.

We were out and about for a few hours so when we got back it was time to start up the dutch ovens! Ang and I mixed everything up and got it ready while the boys started the charcoal and manned the ovens outside. We made the famous tamalie pie and a new recipe for pineapple upside down cake. They both turned out delicious!!!

We were so full afterwards we just layed around and chatted until we fell asleep. Sunday we hung out for a bit and then packed up and headed back to the car. We made it in one trip this time ;) We had a great weekend!

How we got there: We took I-94 South to the Silver Creek/Hasty exit 183. Then we took Cty Rd 8 to the South and took a left onto Cty Rd 39 and another left onto Cty Rd 11 to the park entrance. We accidentally took the scenic route all the way around the south end of the park - instead of taking Cty Rd 8 all the way to Cty Rd 39 we should have turned off at 127th St. Oh well - either way works ;) No one was in the office so we got our key from the brown board/sign outside the office. Then we drove in a little ways to the parking area and made the hike in to the cabin which was approximately a half mile to a mile.

Where we stayed: Brody and Angie had been to the park a few times and said Cabin 1 is the best cabin so that's where we stayed! None of us have actually stayed at any others ;) Cabin 1 is pretty nice with a little bridge right by it overlooking a small lake.

All the cabins are secluded, rustic cabins with two sets of bunks (the bottom bunks are double beds), a table, and a wood stove. There is no electricity or running water. We all knew this before we went so when we arrived I was pumped to find a solar powered light that you can use for limited amounts of time between dusk and dawn AND our very own private outhouse right outside the cabin!!! We had brought a lantern with but could actually use the solar light for awhile. And who knew we'd have an outhouse right outside the cabin?? I thought we'd have to walk a ways to get to it. The cabins in the winter also have a stock of wood to use but it is not to be used for a campfire and I believe is not provided in the summer. We read through the journal from other campers and some were not appreciative of the secluded, primitive cabin and said how much better it would be with electricity and water and flush toilet. They were also bothered by the fact that there was no wood provided in the summer and they had to hike to the office for some. Come on people, you can go anywhere and have electricity and running water! Try something different! We had a great time at the cabin and wouldn't want it any other way!

Trails: There are 14 miles of trails for cross country skiing in the winter. There are also trails for skate skiing, snowshoeing and hiking. Here is a map of the park for winter.


Sunday, January 17, 2010

Snowmobiling the Bighorns (Burgess Junction)

The story:
Paul, Marv and myself decided we needed to go check out the Bighorns this season. It is an easy trip from Minnesota and only involves a day of driving (12-13 hours). We loaded up and left central Mn at 6 a.m.

How we got there:
There are a few ways to get there. We decided that the fastest way would be to stay on I-94 through MN and all the way across North Dakota. At about 200 miles into Montana on I-94, we turned south on 47 in between Bighorn and Custer. This route will save you an hours time and 50 miles instead of going to Billings and then south on I-90. 47 south brings you to Hardin, MT. We then merged onto I-90 south into Wyoming. We took the Ranchester exit onto 14 towards Dayton. Dayton has a crazy little bar on mainstreet called the Crazy Woman Saloon where you can get a case of beer for your stay up in the mountain. We took off from the Crazy Woman up highway 14 that has around 20 switchbacks until the foot hills start to taper off. We drove 22 more miles until we arrived at Arrowhead Lodge. (Funny Story - We walked into the Crazy Woman and asked if they had off-sale liquor/beer. The young bartendar gave me a crazy look. I explained that I just wanted to buy some beer-to-go. In Wyoming, where I have lived before, apparently they call it a package-of-beer. So we got the stuff and we were on our way)

Where we stayed:
Arrowhead Lodge is 22 miles up the switchbacks from Dayton. It is a nice place with a saloon, place to eat and a nice motel built in 2000. The construction of buildings at Arrowhead is what you would expect if you have been to other wyoming get aways. The buildings are nice with noticeable flaws. We stayed in suite 105. There was plenty of room for the three of us and all of our gear. We also had enough food to survive for around 22 days :) We checked in that evening and they tried to persuade us to stay at bear lodge (up the road 3-4 miles). They informed us that they would be closing for 2 days because the mountain traffic was nearly non-existant. We decided to stay at Arrowhead and didn't mind one bit that we would be the only ones on the mountain for 3 days.

The trails are very well maintained in the Bighorns. I have snowmobiled with Rick (owner of the 3 lodges in the Bighorns) at another range in Wyoming and his complaint was the trails. I will say that he has the grooming under control in the Bighorns. We only use the trail to get to the next point where we will cut off and ride back country, so the trails aren't our main concern. Snow depth is.

Snow conditions:
The snow was scarce in the Bighorns this season. I have followed snotel for 7 years or so and the Bighorns always seem to have the least amount of snow out of any of the main sledding ranges in Wyoming. Snotel read 35 inches around Bald Mtn when we were there. It hadn't snowed for 2-3 weeks. We worked hard to find untracked snow. We were able to find good snow around Hunt Mtn, Freeze Out Point, Garden of the Gods, Burnt Mtn and Rooster Hill. The famous open meadows and bowls of the bighorns were tracked up, low on snow and hard as a rock. We ended up riding a lot of logged patches which isnt a bad thing. Just have to watch out for stumps in low snow conditions and never follow someone elses track. Overall, it was a good trip. We have been spoiled with deep snow in the other ranges that we ride so the low snow conditions were a bit of a disappointment. I would recommend the bighorns if you can get there after a good snowfall. There is lots of local traffic as well as traffic from MN, ND, SD. Backcountry areas are some of the most easy to access in Wyoming and therefore, the pow gets tracked up in a hurry.



Friday, January 15, 2010

Alpine, WY Snowmobiling Video

I added a video from Jake's helmet cam to the bottom of this post :)

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Flakes: A telemark skiing film put on by SCSU Outdoor Endeavors

Brody, Angie, Grant and I went to check out a telemark skiing film put on by Outdoor Endeavors at SCSU in the Atwood Center. The movie was called Flakes and it was pretty entertaining! There were some funny interviews mixed in with the skiing action so it kept my attention :) Outdoor Endeavors even provided some tasty snacks after the film! They also played another film after Flakes but we didn't stay for that one. We'd definitely attend another OE Movie Night!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Ice Fishing Lake Irene MN with Ben and Jessie!

Grant and I made a trip to Clotho today for some lunch and then out to ice fish with Ben, Jessie and Dad Gary. We packed up, dressed warm, and drove out to Lake Irene near Miltona for some fishing fun ;)

We unloaded and pulled the stuff across the lake with the snowmobile to the spot we wanted. Ben supervised Grant making some holes.

Dad Gary got Ben and Jessie all set up for Jessie's first shot at ice fishing. Ben was the first one to pull something in but it was microscopic :) Then Jessie caught one and she was pretty excited:

Grant and I waiting for the big one to bite ;)

It was reeeeeeeally cold out and Grant and my heater wasn't working so swell, so we packed up and made our way back to the Schnell's for some yummy lasagna. Then Grant and I headed back home after a fun day!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Cross Country Skiing Quarry Park St. Cloud MN

Brody, Angie, Grant and I ventured out on the coldest evening of the winter so far to take part in the Quarry Park Moonlight Ski put on by the Nordic Ski Club of Central Minnesota!

First we had some food at the Asian House's newest location in St. Cloud/Waite Park. It's in a little strip mall right off highway 23 kinda towards Kentucky Fried Chicken and Menards. It was excellent as usual! Check it out: their take out menus are now online! I love their chicken fried rice and Grant can't get enough of their curry. mmm good!
Then we headed over to Quarry Park to check out the Moonlight Ski event. Ed Bouffard, the ski pulk guy, greeted us at the entrance since he helps put the event on. We had some snacks while we put our skis on and then made our way out to the trails! Here we are getting our skis on:

Here's Grant out on the trails. They were really nice and the lights along the trails were awesome!

And here we are all frosty after skiing around the park!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Snowmobiling the Wyoming Range in Alpine, Wyoming

Overview: Our annual snowmobiling trip with the Hinnenkamps and the Schnells over Christmas break was another success! We decided to try a new place this year since we’d been riding Togwotee Pass for the last couple years and the Snowies or Big Horns prior to that.

How we got there: We usually take Hwy 23 to southern Minnesota and then I-90 across South Dakota to Gillette, Wy. From there we take 59 south to Casper and Hwy 26 the rest of the way to Dubois, over Togwotee Pass, through Moran and Jackson and down to Alpine. That’s the route we took home this time but on the way out we had to find some back roads since the interstates were closed due to the snow storm. We took 17 South out of Sioux Falls to 44 west which changes to 18 in Winner and then at Martin we went south to 20 in Nebraska and then up to Casper on our usual route.

Stopping at the Snake River Overlook before heading south to Alpine! Ahhh the Tetons!

Where we stayed: We rented an awesome house right in town. See details here. It was beautiful and very reasonably priced. We had six adults and two kids with us. It could easily sleep 6 more people because there was a double bed, two bunks and a futon we didn’t even use.

View from the house.

Me, Cody, Grant, Suzette and Jake hanging out in the living room.

Uncle Darrell, Suzette and Mom in the kitchen.

Trails: The trails from Alpine were great! Click here for a map of the Wyoming Range and Salt River Range trail system. From the house we stayed at it was about 2 miles to the start of the trail. We drove along the road and across the bridge over the Grey’s River to get to the trail. It wasn’t far at all. There was maybe a foot of snow in Alpine (this was a low snow year) and riding through town wasn’t a problem. Others had ridden in the ditch along the road where we were driving. There is also a parking lot at the beginning of the trail if you are hauling sleds in.

The main trail is the Grey’s River Trail, or trail A on the map. We had to take this trail for 5-10 miles every day since it’s the only one until you get out a ways. The scenery is great along the trail. You follow along the river which is really pretty with snow covered trees lining it. We saw some wildlife – a moose and some elk a couple days. Once we got through that part of the trail we took the D trail a couple days and also tried the C trail. We also stayed on the A trail one day to E trail to check out Blind Bull. A section of the D trail was not groomed yet but we found our way. This was our first trip to this area so we rode more trails than usual so we could find our way around. There are some nice open meadows to play in right off the trails.

Climbing a hill somewhere near the Blind Bull warming hut. That's Grant ;)

Me, Dad, Jake, Uncle Darrell, Cody and Grant.

Day 3 - Grant's ready to ride! Nice hair-do!

Cody's ready to go too!

Found some snow today! We love the Wyoming snow :)


Me a little out of practice for carving.

Uncle Darrell and Dad navigating - hmmm where are we?

Grant showing off and loving the powder.

Day 4 - Mom going up a hill after much contemplation.


Snow's deep today folks - quote from Grant ;)


Mom, Dad and Grant on break. Riding in deep snow requires a lot of breaks.

Darrell and Jake. Yup, snow's still deep.

Lunch break - Mom, Dad, Cody and Grant.

Woooo hoooo

Why's Jake always out of focus? Maybe because he's always doing mach 90 as Grant says!

We love the snow! Did I mention that?

Snow conditions: This was a lower snow year than the last couple. We talked to several people and they said the past few years they’ve had a lot more snow this time of year. When we were there the snotel site at Blind Bull was reporting around 30”. The sage brush was sticking out in a lot of places but the trails were well-groomed and had enough snow. The third, fourth and fifth days it snowed about two feet in some places so then we had good off-trail riding!


From Jake's helmet cam :)
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